How Marketers Should Be Reporting to Executives (But Mostly Aren't)

As a marketer, you know the critical value of buyer personas. By tapping into those personas, you’re able to deliver the right messages to the right people at the right time to get them to convert, and each conversion makes you feel a little like a superhero. (We’re not ashamed to admit it.)

So why do marketers often feel less-than-super when reporting on their numbers?

The thing is, marketing teams often face scrutiny and dubious glances from executives, clients, even other departments. But in response to that scrutiny, marketers tend to overcompensate with data dumps that smother recipients with stats and graphs and then leave them out in the weeds.

Instead, marketers should focus their reports on the metrics that matter to their audience specifically. In other words, you need to create reporting personas, and we’re here to help you succeed.

In this post, we’ll share what executives really think of marketing, why trust between marketing and executives matters, the four metrics you need to gain their trust, and a tool that can make it all super simple.

The Executive Reporting Persona

According to the State of Marketing Leadership report released by Salesforce and LinkedIn, revenue growth and ROI are the two most important metrics that leaders use to gauge the success of marketing.

Meanwhile, 63% of marketers “don’t include any financial outcome when reporting on and presenting marketing results to their CEOs and top management,” according to a 2014 Fournaise Group study.

That’s a huge disconnect.

It also tells us that for many marketers, there’s a significant opportunity to become invaluable to the C-suite by proving how your work impacts your company’s top-line growth.


Effective reporting is key to establishing the value of marketing within your company—and studies suggest it’s an uphill battle. A 2012 study from the Fournaise Group revealed that 80% of CEOs believe marketing is disconnected from financial realities, and 75% feel marketers “do not adequately speak the language of their top management.” In other words, executives have a hard time trusting their own marketing departments.

The trouble is, that trust could have a major impact on how well marketing performs. In their 2016 State of Marketing report, Salesforce explained that “83% of high-performing marketers have the executive team’s complete commitment to their marketing strategy.” That’s 2.6 times more than what underperforming teams report.

Having support from company leadership is strongly connected with high performance, and to get that support, marketing has to prove that their work aligns with company objectives (such as revenue growth) and is effective (shown through ROI). And the more effectively you are able to communicate that data, the better your rapport with management.

4 Marketing Metrics Executives Care About

At Grow, we’re big fans of efficiency, and that means killing time waste and data distractions. So, we’re going to give you the four metrics that managers need to see, which you can supplement with any other metrics that directly tie to your company’s specific objectives.

1. Marketing-Originated Customers: This metric demonstrates what percentage of new customers came directly through marketing, and it’s a great place to start as you demonstrate the value that marketing contributes to your company.

Depending on your company’s goals, you can calculate this based on the number of new customers, or on the revenue generated from those customers. Remember, for most CEOs, revenue growth is the most important metric, so it’s best to be prepared with both calculations.

Tip: For some real “wow” factor, graph this percentage month-over-month. On a Grow dashboard, you’ll also see the monthly rate of growth displayed as a key value for quick insight.

2. Marketing Pipeline Contribution: After showing your contribution to revenue, you should also include a view to the future by calculating both marketing-sourced pipeline and marketing-influenced pipeline.

Marketing-sourced pipeline includes all leads generated by marketing, whereas marketing-influenced pipeline includes all leads that were nurtured or touched by marketing at any point. Again, these should be calculated both in terms of lead quantity and lead value.

Tip: Meagen Eisenberg, CMO at MongoDB, says marketing-sourced pipeline is the one metric (besides revenue!) that her business can’t live without.

3. Marketing ROI: Return on investment is incredibly important for CEOs to be able to assess marketing performance. Not only does it show the impact of each marketing dollar spent, it helps to plan future budgets and strategies.

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Tip: Break down ROI further by campaign or channel to give greater insight into what has been effective. This breakdown looks great as a stacked bar chart, and really drives the story home.

4. Marketing Percentage of CAC: While you’re addressing ROI, you’ll also want to include marketing’s portion of customer acquisition cost. As Hubspot points out, this metric can provide valuable insight into strategy and effectiveness.

Tip: Be warned, this metric can be a bit tricky. If the value increases, it could be due to things like overspending on marketing, sales costs decreasing due to missing quota, or deliberately increasing marketing spend to improve leads for sales. Be sure that you consider these factors in your analysis.

A Marketing Dashboard Can Help

Simply put: simplicity—both for you, and for your executives. A marketing dashboard like Grow’s turns spreadsheets into dynamic visualizations that are easy to read and understand. It also decreases your workload as you only have to connect your data sources once to have a consistently up-to-date repository of insight.

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Further, your executive team will appreciate the ability to have access to current data as well. We’ll admit, this transparency eliminates some of the marketing department’s mystique, but it will garner support from leadership, and that’s much more valuable to your team.

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